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Food Fight

The revolution will be served with a side of honey-drizzled kibbe

Author Laura Putre Illustration Peter Oumanski


CLEVELAND—The West Side Market is the kind of place where vendors attempt to out-yell each other and the challah may or may not have been hand-braided at the crack of dawn. You can impulse-buy a goat’s head here, or get the death stare from a fruit-stand guy if you spend too much time fondling the honeydews.

So when trustees announced that the market would celebrate its centennial with a superstar-chef-a-thon headlined by Food Network pierogi maestro Michael Symon, the bratwurst buyers and melon squeezers were abuzz. Enthusiasm ebbed, however, when the ticket price was revealed: $250 a head, the equivalent of about 40 goat cheese crêpes from market standby Crêpes de Luxe.

“It stinks that the average Clevelander can’t even go to this,” griped one regular. “We are the reason the market has lasted 100 years.”

The response from the city’s food community was swift. Steve Schimoler, chef-owner of Crop Bistro & Bar, organized an anti-gala called the People’s Party, with tickets going for 25 bucks. And while it may not have been the classiest culinary event in Cleveland’s history, it did boast an all-chef jam band and PB&Js with almond butter and foie gras. Even the grumpy fruit-stand guy enjoyed himself.

“We wanted to reach out to the little guys who never get invited to these hoity-toity events,” says Schimoler. “The market is about the people who work hard every day.”
Schimoler, whose restaurant is located in a 1920s-era bank building, even flung open the vault’s 40-ton doors so the party could continue there after the official event came to an end. “We were still going pretty strong at 2 a.m.,” he says. “The next morning I was like Gumby. I couldn’t move.”

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Getting lost in translation on the banks of the Nile

EGYPT—In the shadow of the Great Pyramid of Giza, a middle-aged American woman is besieged by a crush of schoolgirls. “Where are you from?” they ask. “How much were your shoes?”

The most insistent of these curious children is a tiny thing who wants to know how old the woman is. The girl’s English is beginner-level at best, so the woman tries to convey her age by holding up fingers. The questions, meanwhile, continue to fly: “What do you do?” “Have you seen Hollywood?” It’s cute but chaotic, and the woman’s attempts at sign language grow increasingly flustered.

“Come and see this American lady!” a wide-eyed schoolgirl eventually shouts. “She is over 100 years old!” —James Dorsey

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